A Conservative election agent who managed the campaigns of two victorious Croydon MPs had to explain to a High Court judge today why their election expenses were accidentally mis-declared.

Ian James Parker ran the campaigns of Gavin Barwell and Richard Ottaway, both of whom won their Parliamentary seats after polls in Croydon South and Croydon Central in May.

As required by law, he put in declarations of the candidates' election expenses after the vote - but was later "horrified" to discover that errors had been made, London's High Court heard.

His barrister, Richard Price QC, said the declarations left off a "notional charge" for the use of office space during the campaigns and also under-estimated amounts spent on the printing of election leaflets.

Under the terms of the Representation of the People Act 1983, inaccurate declarations of election expenses are viewed as an "illegal practice" that can, if deliberate, be visited by a range of severe punishments.

Today, at a heavy cost in legal bills, Mr Parker had to go to the High Court to explain how the errors happened and ask top judge, Mr Justice Silber, to relieve him from the potential consequences of breaching the Act.

To comply with the statute, papers in the case had to be served on all the candidates at the election, as well as the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Price explained that neither Mr Barwell, nor Mr Ottaway, were aware of the errors, and Mr Parker had only discovered them to his horror in mid-July.

Mr Justice Silber said the sums left off the declarations would not have pushed either candidate over the election expenses limit.

And the election agent can breathe a sigh of relief after the judge accepted that the mistakes were "inadvertant" and there had been "no want of good faith" on his part.